I am always down to rock out with my fellow queers and it doesn’t need to be Pride month at all for celebrations of queer artists and queer magic; we don’t need a marketing angle to know we are worthy of all the space to be ourselves and to radiate all the joy we can create every single day of the year. I was particularly excited for this post Pride punk night (which was more of a variety show really as every artist varied widely in sound) at Brooklyn queer bar/club 3 Dollar Bill because it featured two of my local favorites returning to the stage for their first performances since the start of the pandemic- gloomy surfy grunge punks Desert Sharks, and bluesy punks Fisty (who also happen to be very dear friends, as well as current and former bandmates of mine in other projects). I absolutely love a mixed bag on a lineup and getting to see artists that all bring something very different to the table.
Kicking off the night was a pop dance performer Merab who I unfortunately missed most of as I was settling in and getting my camera ready. That was quickly followed by multi media pop artist Vemilo who performed a piece called “Amalgamation” in which he sang to self produced backing tracks, danced, had multiple costume changes, and interacted with an on-screen character- also played by himself- to weave a narrative through the songs and storytelling. I couldn’t help but be reminded of Tracy & the Plastics, the project of multi media punk artist Wynne Greenwood, who 20 years ago performed in a similar fashion- though at the time executed in a more primitive way owing to the available technology of the early 2000s; Greenwood playing the character of Tracy and interacting with her “bandmates” Nikki and Cola on tube television sets via pre-made VHS tapes (with her also playing the other characters on screen). I was delighted to see Vemilo’s 2021 take on the concept and was thoroughly impressed that all of it was created and produced by one person with just an iPhone.
(Note– I will eventually share images I took on 35mm film of Tracy & the Plastics as I dig further into my archives)
Solo singer/songwriter Roni was up next and played a set of songs built around guitar loops and soulful vocals. They quipped about not often performing shows with punk artists but hoping they fit in anyway and it definitely did. Regardless of how hard the other bands were in comparison, it was right at home in the night and the songs were all executed skillfully despite all involving multiple loops built together.
Lily Mao and the Resonators immediately followed and picked up the volume further and took the night into firm rock territory with a super fun and bouncy set of crunchy energetic pop rock. The Resonators also features Talay on lead guitar who really has some serious shredding chops!
Nuclear Family Fantasy hit the stage next and kept the rock n roll moving right along. The songs fell into a moody alt rock vibe, which I am always down for, because after all it will always be 1994 inside my heart. I was extremely curious about what their drummer was doing as he was setting up, as in all of my years playing drums, I have never seen someone play in that configuration. It was super interesting and I think I definitely expected more of an off kilter post punk style of drumming, but it was absolutely straight ahead rock drumming- which will never get a complaint from me!
Fisty is one of the first bands in NYC I met many moons ago when I first got involved in the music scene and started booking bands and we’ve been great friends ever since. Bluesy, grungy, sultry- they have only gotten tighter over the years and it is always a treat to see them. Front woman Lola Johnson is engaging, funny, and passionately delivers song after song. While Johnson deftly handles lead vocals throughout, she is also joined for beautiful harmony vocals on several songs by drummer Rebecca DeRosa and bassist Chantal Wright (who is also a contributing writer for FTA), the standout being “Waiting For the Rain.” They sadly don’t have a big recorded output currently, but are working on new music for their full length; I very much am looking forward to that and being able to listen to them wherever and whenever I want.
Desert Sharks closed out the night in their first show as a trio, which was also their first show back since the beginning of the pandemic. They seem to have sounded even bigger to me than they did when they were a quartet and absolutely slayed with a set consisting of tracks mainly from their 2019 album Baby’s Gold Death Stadium with a few new songs mixed in. Guitarist Sunny Veniero shreds like it’s her full time job, making it look absolutely effortless in the process, and vocalist Stephanie Gunther croons with the best of them, belting while also hammering driving bass lines. For the final three songs of their set, they also brought out special guest Vanessa Silberman, a power house guitarist who blended in perfectly with Desert Sharks wall of sound.
To add just a little more spark at the end of the night, Merab came back out and performed a few more numbers to the by now weary crowd, but weary or not, it was all worth it to see such an awesome night of music and performance art. I am beyond giddy to be writing up all of these artists because it means more and more and more is returning to “normal” whatever that means….but the queer rock/variety show feels like not only my normal but my absolute happy place.
Scroll down for more pics of the show (photos by Kate Hoos)
NUCLEAR FAMILY FANTASY